DON’T STAY STUCK IN THE SHOULDS

 

Today is September 1, and for me it represents the beginning of autumn.  The first of the BER months.  When everything seems new again.  Autumn is my favorite time of year.  I like everything about fall: the vivid colors on the trees, the crisp, cool air, the excitement of children going back to school, football games, and pumpkin patches.  I love it all.  I even enjoy the nights getting a little longer.  Autumn is such a rich season, a season of harvest and plenty.

 

But this is 2020 and everything is different and definitely not what I planned.  I should be over-the-top excited about Sooner football starting, but it’s more like, “Meh.”  We won’t be going to the games in Norman this year (if they actually have games).  Instead, we took the option of rolling our tickets over into 2021.  It isn’t because we are afraid of getting COVID, but rather because sitting in a stadium that is three-quarters empty and cheering through a mask just doesn’t sound like fun.  No tailgating, no Boomer Bash…the game day experience, like everything else in 2020, will be dramatically different.  Not like it should be.

 

This is the year the Sooners were scheduled to play Army as an away game.  Jerry and I should be going to West Point like we planned.  But not this year.  Cancelled!  How many events have been cancelled in 2020?

 

I guess the first cancellations that hit us, like everyone else, were the large-group gatherings.  We couldn’t go to church for many weeks, and we are only just now allowed to go back.  We couldn’t go out to a restaurant for weeks; in fact our only outing for quite a while was a trip to the grocery store.  Jerry and I cancelled our annual family trip to Rosemary Beach in the early summer.  We didn’t get to see our granddaughter graduate from high school.  We couldn’t be in the hospital waiting room while a daughter had surgery or a granddaughter gave birth.  You have your own stories of cancelations this year: weddings, funerals, school events, and family reunions.  Milestone events that were missed.  Things that should have happened didn’t.  Life should not be like this!

 

As I have been pondering these things on this September morning I am amazed at my own contentment.  I learned a long time ago that expectations are premeditated resentments.  I’ve learned not to be caught up in the “shoulds,” even when the “shoulds” are true.  It’s true: life shouldn’t be like this, there shouldn’t be rioting and looting in our streets, people shouldn’t hate each other, my grandchildren should be able to go to school in person and shouldn’thave to wear masks, and by golly, there should be football as usual!  But what should be isn’t, and staying stuck in the “shoulds” is a guaranteed recipe for unhappiness.  Instead I need to accept what is and learn to deal with it.  This has definitely been the year to roll with the punches.  And amidst all these cancellations, this uncertainty, I have peace.

 

That peace comes from knowing God.  The God I know created this world, and saw this year coming before time existed.  Nothing has taken Him by surprise.  He is our refuge, our safe place when all our familiar props have been knocked out from under us.  He is there when the world faces a pandemic, when we lose our jobs, when our stock accounts shrink overnight, when all our plans have been disrupted and even plan B doesn’t work.  He is there when the “shoulds” turn to “should nots.”  I can trust Him because I have walked with Him for many years and know Him to be faithful and true to his word.  Every morning I ask for new marching orders because I know my own agenda is not what matters and may be cancelled anyway.  So I don’t stay stuck in the “shoulds.”  I go to Him with what is, and ask Him what to do because He has a perfect plan for me.  Proverbs 3: 5-6 tells me what to do:

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN TIMES LIKE THESE

Today s my grandmother’s birthday.  If my math is correct, she would be 121 years old.  Although she has been gone for almost 30 years, I still miss her every day.  She was the closest thing I had to a mother figure and I knew she loved me unconditionally.  When I was a lot smarter in my twenties and thirties, it annoyed me that she wanted to talk on the phone every day.  Every other day would have been fine with me.  Didn’t she know I was busy?  But oh, how I would love to have those phone calls back (grandchildren, take note)!  Oh, and why didn’t I get more photos of the two of us together?? I still remember the last time I saw her.  She was in the hospital in Dallas and I flew down to see her.  She knew, but I didn’t, that it would be our last time together.  She kept saying, “I’m so tired, but I’m afraid to go to sleep because when I wake up I won’t see you again.”  In my denial I thought, “Of course we will see each other again.  You will get well and go home and I will come back to Dallas for a visit.”  It didn’t hit me until I was on the airplane heading home that she was dying, and that she was right.  That was our last visit.  This story still brings tears to my eyes, and even though I have lots of grandchildren of my own, I still miss my Nenaw.  But I know without a doubt that we will meet again in Heaven.  She may be waiting at the gate for me even now!

I wonder what she would have thought about these Covid-19 quarantine days we are experiencing.  It just occurred to me the other day that she lived through the infamous Spanish flu we keep hearing about.  I don’t recall her ever mentioning that to me.  She would have been in her late teens, and probably knew someone who died from that plague.  She may even have contracted it herself.  

She had a perpetual cheerful attitude and didn’t dwell on negative things, but she lived through some tough times.  She endured two World Wars, sending both sons and a son-in-law (my dad) off to an unknown future.  I think about what it must have been like back then with no 24-hour news.  She didn’t have a television at that time so she must have relied on the radio and Movietone Newsreels if she went to the movies.  Even though she didn’t know if her boys would come back, she put one foot in front of the other and kept going.

Isn’t that similar to what we are doing now?  We don’t know where this virus will take us.  There is so much uncertainty about what lies ahead.  Our government officials as well as leaders in business, religion, and education are trying to make the wisest decisions they can.  Some of us are wondering how we will do school in the fall while others are wondering if our jobs will still be here when the economy is opened.  This virus has affected every area of our lives.  But we put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

There is a hymn that is stuck in my head: In Times Like These, by Ruth Caye Jones.  Ruth was a Pennsylvania pastor’s wife who was living through some tough times of her own.  It was 1943, a World War was raging, and this mother of five, like everyone else, saw the casualty lists and tried to make do with rationed supplies at home.  It was a time of great strain.  One day she opened her Bible to 2 Timothy 3 and read these words      

But understand this, that in the last days there will become times of great difficulty.

A song began to take shape in her mind, and we were left with these beautiful lyrics:

In times like these we need a Savior;
In times like these we need an anchor.
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

Although Ruth was inspired by the passage in 2 Timothy, she no doubt was familiar with another passage in Hebrews:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  Heb. 6:19.

The entire world is living through difficult and uncertain times.  In times like these I need a Savior. And that Savior’s name is Jesus.  I know my soul is anchored in Him.  I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but when I close my earthly eyes for the last time, I know His face will be the next one I see…maybe followed by my grandmother.